CROYDON COMMENTARY: Two of Croydon’s MPs voted for cuts in disability benefits, and one then claimed credit when the changes to PIP were dropped. PETER ROGERS, an organiser of charity fund-raising events, has written to both MPs asking for an explanation
In a recent email newsletter to his constituents, Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central, implied he had in some way been responsible for the reversal of the heartless and poorly thought-out cuts to Personal Independence Payments which support disabled people to lead slightly less uncomfortable lives.
This about-face by Barwell was no doubt partly due to the backlash from the public, who are starting to see through the government and its supportive media’s rhetoric of disabled people as some kind of scroungers or fraudsters.
This U-turn cannot lessen our disgust that Croydon MPs Barwell and Chris Philp voted in favour of measures to cut disability benefits by £30 a week only days before the Budget.
The vote was carried by the Government despite two rebellions in the House of Lords and warnings from disability organisations about the terrible impact that the proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) would have and that many struggled to afford food on the benefit at its current level.
The measure will impact on disabled people in the ESA WRAG (Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group) who have been found not fit for work, including those with deteriorating conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s and MS. Around half of those currently within the ESA WRAG have mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism.
All available evidence indicates that the cut will move disabled people further from work. MPs like Barwell and Philp chose to ignore this evidence and instead vote through a brutal cut that will harm their disabled constituents.
In the increasing number of instances where disability charities have asked MPs who voted through this cut to stand down as patrons or trustees, a few have cited a briefing paper which stated, incorrectly, that people in the ESA WRAG group were able to work.
This was at best incompetence on the part of the MPs and at worst intentional disinformation by Conservative Central Office to push through a cruel and unpopular vote.
I trust that given these facts and the public backlash on this and other savage cuts to disability allowances when given another chance to debate this, as I’m sure they will, Conservative MPs will vote differently. I expect neither Barwell nor Philp to be big enough to admit this cut was a mistake in the first instance or even to explain why they voted for it in the first place (my emails to them asking for clarity on their reasoning have as yet gone unanswered).
We as disability activists welcome the reversal of PIP cuts and the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith from the DWP (even if he’s being replaced by Stephen Crabb who believes homosexuality is curable) but we will continue to fight for the rights and for the dignity of disabled people against the ideologically driven austerity programme being forced on societies most vunerable.
- Peter Rogers is a member of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, a campaign set up in 2010 to oppose the brutal and disproportionate impact of austerity on disabled people. It is self-funded grassroots organisation made up of deaf, disabled, visually impaired, mental ill-health sufferers and others who have been affected by these cuts. Details of DPAC campaigns can be found here http://dpac.uk.net/
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